Sunday, August 23, 2015

Chapter 46 - Fancy Gap to Wilmington, NC

Friday, August 21st:
Todays drive was around 280 miles entirely on interstate highways.  Most of the highways were very crowded particularly from around Winston-Salem through Raleigh in North Carolina. To add to our driving anxieties, for around 50 miles or so the interstate was eight lanes wide. That is no fun. We stayed for the entire drive in the right hand lane traveling at around 58 mph. Once past Raleigh and the intersection of I-40 with busy I-95, the road quieted down and our last hour was relatively easy as the highway was mostly straight, flat, and not busy.  One major change did occur as we traveled south besides the eventual disappearance of Blue Ridge Mountains was that the temperatures climbed to 92 degrees by the time we arrived in Wilmington around 1:30 pm. I liked this photo that Kathy took of one of the last mountains that we passed, Pilot Mountain in North Carolina, as we sadly said goodbye to the Blue Ridge Mountain Range.

Our campground, the Wilmington KOA, was very nice and we have a full hookup, pull-thru space, complete with cable TV and a working WiFi system.  Yes, shoot the buck we did.  Our primary reason for choosing Wilmington as a stopping point is because Kathy's Sister Rose, and Rose's son Vincent, and her daughter Allison and her family all live near Wilmington.  Unfortunately, the KOA where we are spending the next two nights while the closest to Rose's home, is still about 20 miles away and part of the drive to get to her home is through rather congested areas including downtown Wilmington.

Rose invited us for dinner Friday evening and we graciously accepted.  The drive to her house took about 45 minutes mostly we thought because of Friday afternoon traffic, some construction delays, and towards the end of the drive a downpour of rain.  We discovered the next day that Garmin may have misdirected us into the construction delay portion of our drive.  I guess by now we should be getting used to these types of holdups, but we are not.  This photo of Rose's home I took on Saturday morning when the sun was shining.  Friday night we enjoyed an excellent steak dinner cooked outside on the grill by Rose's son-in-law Aaron and enjoyed by Rose's entire family including her three granddaughters. Unfortunately, Rose's daughter Allison who was busy preparing for her new job as a third grade teacher was not able to join us for dinner. Also unfortunately, my ability as an aging driver was sorely tested when we drove home in the dark in the pouring rain.

Saturday, August 22nd:
While Friday night may have been rainy we woke up Saturday morning to bright blue skies and the expectation of a warm sunny day.  Rose had told us the previous evening that she would be busy Saturday morning doing volunteer work at her church, the Grace United Methodist Church, in downtown Wilmington, so our plan this morning was just to explore the historic areas of downtown Wilmington. The photo to the right was taken of Rose's church when we visited her at the church late in the morning. One thing that we discovered during our tour is that there are many lovely churches in this historic city.

As it turns out, Wilmington is the oldest city that we have visited on our driving tour so far this summer.  It surprised us that it is even a few years older than our former hometown Savannah, Georgia.  Whereas Savannah was established in 1733, the first settlement in the Wilmington area occurred in the 1720s and like Savannah, Wilmington was not settled directly on the Atlantic coastline but about 20 miles up the Cape Fear River from the Atlantic. Besides some popular tourist attractions like the old battleship USS North Carolina, what Kathy and I enjoyed the most (as always) was walking through their residential area in their historical district. There were literally hundreds of old beautifully restored homes covering dozens of blocks and we must have walked at least a mile and drove two or three more as we toured this lovely old city.  The Bellamy Mansion Museum shown in the above photo is obviously one of everyone's favorites and it was our first stop.

This photo of Kathy and Cabo walking down 3rd Street in the historical district is one of my favorite photos of the many that I took during our long walk. Not only were the homes classically beautiful, but the sun was shinning through the numerous shade trees that offered contracting colors and lighting on the walks, lawns, and houses. Furthermore, the landscaping around the homes was complete and well maintained. 

Also like Savannah, we learned that homes in the historic district of Wilmington do not come cheap.  This 5-bedroom, 6-bath home on 3rd Street is currently for sale for $980K.  We declined to make an offer although we would love to live here.

On a more modest level, both Kathy and I also loved this home that is currently on the market for only $345K.  It was the least expensive of the surprising large number (a dozen maybe) of homes for sale in the historical district.

Walking through the residential neighborhoods gave both Kathy and I a lot of pleasure (not sure about Cabo since he was forced to walk much of the way) but we also enjoyed walking along the boardwalk along the Cape Fear River. The boardwalk, usually referred to in Wilmington as the Riverwalk, is approximately one mile long and we understand that they are planning on extending it.  Alongside the Riverwalk for most of its length are shops, restaurants, condos, hotels, and on the waterside are touring boats for hire. The Riverwalk is used by tourists of course but also by locals a few whom we saw jogging down its length.

The largest of the touring boats is the steam-powered riverboat, Henrietta III shown in this photo to the left which offers lunch and dinner cruises from April thru October. Surprisingly, dogs are allowed onboard for some of the cruises although we preferred to just walk on the wooden planks of the Riverwalk.

Because it was Saturday we also enjoyed a visit to the Riverfront Farmers' Market where Kathy is seen in this photo purchasing some very delicious bread for the soon-to-be weary walkers.

Directly across the Cape Fear River is another popular tourist attraction, the USS North Carolina Battleship, which was built in 1937, was used extensively during World War II in the Pacific, and rather than being scrapped as was planned was moved to Wilmington as a Memorial to North Carolina World War II veterans. 

The final site that we viewed although briefly while we were along the Cape Fear River was a recreation of an old Spanish galleon, El Galeon, that was currently docked in Wilmington.  We understand that it will be leaving Wilmington tomorrow for Charleston which is ironic since we too are headed for Charleston tomorrow. Even had we had the time to visit the galleon, the crowds waiting to get onboard and the hundreds of visitors already onboard, would have turned us back. I enlarged this photo of the El Galeon so that it shows the lines of visitors.  One problem that Kathy and I have discussed numerous times during our three month excursion across our country is that it is impossible to find the time to see all of the attractions. What we have done instead, which has not really bothered us, is to just look and get an overall feel of the beauty of our land and what we Americans have built upon it.

In the mid-afternoon after we returned to our campsite, Kathy's sister Rose and her son, Vincent came over to our home for a few drinks. lots of talking, and a great dinner. We told them both that we felt that they lived in a great area and hopefully that we will be seeing them both in the near future.  Our plan for tomorrow is to head down to Charleston, South Carolina where we plan to stay just south of the city at the Oak Plantation Campground.

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